Astrid is a participant in a program that’s been running for a few years now in Marcala, Honduras called Proyecto Cabañas. It all started with a small obsession with drying coffee in the best possible way to lengthen the shelf life of the unroasted coffee. Laura has been buying from the founder of this project – Juan Contreras and his extended family in Marcala for a few years now – Their collective goal is to strengthen the quality and the prices they can fetch for their efforts by focusing on agronomic practices and specific drying protocols. It’s humid in Marcala, as it is in most of Honduras (Astrid’s farm is called The Spring for how vibrant lush & green everything is during the rainy season especially) – So farmers are constantly trying to figure out how to build consistency despite the challenges.
Here’s a bit of the backstory of her farm in Astrid’s words:
“In 2010 with my husband we bought this land, it was a farm that had been abandoned, we started to manage it and we recovered part of the plants, in 2011 my husband made a nursery to sow in the empty spaces and we completed the farm; In 2015, when the farm was productive, my husband had to emigrate from the country due to family economics and I stayed in front of the farm with the help of my father. It is a noble thing [to produce specialty coffee], although the prices were not always good, we have been in this because thanks to the farms we employ many neighbours; Now we receive better payments for coffee and that excites us much more.”
Astrid is planning to turn her focus to productivity this year, looking at specific agronomic assistance she can implement to increase yields. Avocado, sugar cane, corn, beans, and vegetables are also grown on the farm alongside coffee.
For this lot, and for how most of her coffee is cultivated, the deep red coffee fruit is collected in its state of optimal maturity, then it’s processed in a pulper with a mechanical scrubber to strip some of the mucilage from the seeds.
There is no soaking step, so there is inevitably tiny bits of mucilage left on the seeds for the drying process. The coffee is then put on raised beds where it dries for 12 days on average & is moved every 2 hours; at this point the immature or damaged seeds are selected and separated. We can speak with confidence that Astrid does quite possibly the most thorough sorting job at this stage that we’d ever experienced. In the cup, all this effort translates to a coffee that is deeply sweet and raspberry bright.